Dr. Hermann Simon
"Man of the Past, Man of the Future"

> Download PDF-Version (124 k)

 “What this book actually dealt with is: THE FUTURE OF SOCIETY.” This is the closing sentence in Peter Drucker’s book, Management Challenges for the 21st Century,1 which appeared in 1999. The future has always been of particular interest to Peter Drucker. Many people contemplate and write about the future, but no other management author has had such an impact on our thinking as Drucker. What makes him so exceptional? What distinguishes him from the others? My hypothesis: Drucker interprets the future in a unique way because he is a man of the past.

I once asked Professor Drucker whether he considers himself more as a historical writer or a management thinker. Without much hesitation he answered, “more as a historical writer.” Shortly before this I had read his memoirs, Adventures of a Bystander.2 In this book he sweeps us away into a world that has since disappeared, to the source of my argumentation. Another famous Viennese, the writer Stefan Zweig (1881-1942), calls this “yesterday’s world.”3 The environment into which Peter F. Drucker was born and raised was unique in many ways. In the upper middle classes of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, great emphasis was placed on education, culture, art, music, historical consciousness, urbanity and international openness. However, these catchphrases only partially describe this time period in Vienna. Whoever wants to really understand what it was like to live during this time should read Drucker’s Adventures of a Bystander and Zweig’s Yesterday’s World. It was common during this time, for example, for children of the educated classes to be raised speaking several languages, as they were often brought up by English and French governesses.

1 Peter F. Drucker, Management Challenges for the 21st Century, New York: Harper Business 1999.
2 Peter F. Drucker, Adventures of a Bystander, New York: Harper & Row 1978.
3 Stefan Zweig, Die Welt von gestern – Erinnerungen eines Europäers, Stockholm: Bermann-Fischer 1944.